You should hear Mary talk about New England — “the Big Blob,” she calls it, as its six states were a single jagged piece in her childhood puzzle map of America rather than a perfect square like, say, Colorado. You could barely make out tiny Rhode Island, Shop Boy land. More exactly, you should hear her talk about how little we talk, us Yankees: “Meagerspeak.” She says our reserve feels like rudeness to her.
I try to explain a couple of things:
- Yankees are exceedingly eloquent. We can say in three words, or a single hand gesture, what others can’t say in 1,000.
- We’re not unfriendly. We just don’t like you.
- It gets so cold sometimes that if you open your mouth to speak, your gums will freeze, your gold teeth will fall out, and the Mob will grab them.
- This is my space. That’s yours. Don’t touch me, I won’t get in your face.
- We don’t need to talk. We’re the stinking World Champions.
But Mary won’t listen to reason. She was trained by a Southern mother who believes that every lull in conversation is way too long. It must be filled by whatever means necessary. Embrace enemies as if they were your close friends — your true close friends will know the difference. Just be charmin’ and darlin’ at all times. Hugs and kisses and elbow grabs and chucks on the shoulder, oh my.
Well, for a long time, my sisters thought Mary was flat crazy. They’re not so sure about me these days, either. See, like it or not, Shop Boy is a representative of Typecast Press now. It’s not all about me anymore. (Wait, did I approve this?) Studio tour? Meet-and-greet? Delivery? Shop Boy’s on, no excuses.
Please don’t get me wrong. Shop Boy truly believes in Mary and what she’s doing here with letterpress in Baltimore. Get Shop Boy going and that Yankee-ness falls away. He’ll talk your ear off about Typecast Press, or just about anything else you make the mistake of bringing up. (You know by now that Shop Boy has many words within him yet to share. I’m not shy at the keyboard.)
It’s just that, um, well, er … oh, let me just spit it out: Shop Boy is no social butterfly. Total cocoon by nature. Died a caterpillar. Know what I’m saying?
Mary’s been working on Shop Boy for years. She pokes me in the ribs when I’m not “Southern enough” in a social situation and scolds me for my dread of parties. And we laugh about Shop Boy’s uncanny ability to draw a crowd in a supermarket simply by trying to stand out of the way. (Sale on rutabagas! Right behind Mr. Uncomfortable over there!) It ain’t looks, folks.
True story: Before Mary and Shop Boy’s engagement party in Colorado, I made Mary, her dad, mom and sister promise that at all times, at least one of them would be at my side to ease the mingling with guests, about 150 of whom I’d never met. You guessed it: a mob scene, and Shop Boy never saw Mary or her family again until the last of the guests had departed.
“Well,” Mary said, “I guess you passed the test.”
A test? More like attempted murder. If there were any justice, she’d have gone to the slammer for that. Oooh. I still get the willies.
Know what, though? I’ve been a changed man since that day. I cheerfully meet potential clients all the time. Space issues? Fugheddaboutit. Shop Boy is a guy’s guy now: a pat on the back for a colleague, a fist bump for a dude’s funny line, man hugs. With women, charming conversation, actually listening — Shop Boy isn’t alone on the learning curve here. And in public, Shop Boy tries to take what he’s learned to make the world a better place. Say I’m about to collide with someone walking toward me in a train station. I put my hand gently on the individual’s shoulder to alert him and deflect fuller contact, walking on after a heartfelt, “Sorry, my fault,” or the like.
What a charming gentleman. My mom would have been shocked … then proud, I think.
Anyway, just a week or two ago, Mary and Shop Boy were returning from a party for a client, Global Action for Children, on K Street in Washington, D.C. Open house. I knew two people. Mary would be 45 minutes late. (“You go ahead of me, Shop Boy.”) Ugh, isn’t the testing thing over yet? Well, no sweat for the new me. Fun party. Drinks afterward. On a roll! We were hustling for a train home, Mary a few steps ahead, when a 70-ish fellow came around a column, right into my path. Flush with success, I gently touched his shoulder and said, “Excuse me, friend” — as any Southerner worth his salt would do — changed course and began to walk on.
“Get your F hands of me, MF!”
He caned me. A two-hander right on the knuckle of my index finger. I was so stunned I didn’t even respond, didn’t look back, didn’t really feel pain, just ran to catch up to Mary. I didn’t show her my swollen hand until later, when I confessed that Shop Boy had been beaten up by a handicapped, old dude.
“Oh my God, are you OK? He hit you? On purpose? How dare he? What did you do? Why didn’t you tell me? I would have gotten right in his face!”
Which would have been pretty Yankee of her, don’t you think?
Letterpress List No. 10
Time for more music, about an hour’s worth to work — or ice a sore hand — by. Soothing, charmin’ and darlin’ tunes, most of them suitable for any cocktail party. (“Hey, anybody seen Mary?”) Look for them at iTunes and Napster, among other places, if you haven’t put them on you MP3 player already. Bet you have.
Southern Cross — Crosby, Stills & Nash (Iffy on the band — blasphemy, I know — but this is so pretty.)
No More Drama — Mary J. Blige (Soap sampling and drama aplenty.)
What a Fool Believes — Doobie Brothers (Shop Boy could once hit the falsetto notes here. Yes, I know I should not necessarily be proud of that.)
Livin’ on a Prayer — Bon Jovi (JBJ can fly! Must be the hair product.)
Rainbow in the Dark — Ronnie James Dio (The devil made him do it. They were simpler times.)
Rooster — Alice in Chains (A son’s tribute to dad.)
Jesus Don’t Want Me for a Sunbeam — Nirvana (Heaven’s loss.)
Babe — Styx (Mary’ll laugh at me for this. Shop Boy is such a sap.)
Sweet Child O’ Mine — Guns N’ Roses (Before Axel slapped his sweet child around, then got punched out by a supermodel.)
Silent All These Years — Tori Amos (No more drama … for her, anyway.)
Beth — Kiss (It wasn’t Kiss without Criss. Just saying.)
Sanctified — Nine Inch Nails (“Heaven’s just a rumor she’ll dispel” and other incurably painful stories … next on Trent TV.)
Bluebird — Kasey Chambers (One of Mary’s favorites.)
Good Old World Waltz — Tom Waits (This was the song that made me love Tom Waits … in a man hug kind of way, of course.)
Dust in the Wind – Kansas (Drink too much wine, listen to this and cry. Nice release.)
How You Gonna See Me Now — Alice Cooper (Set free … and playing some real fine golf.)